Does Brian Ross at The Blotter have no idea what the word "covert" means, or was this a deliberate leak from the government to put pressure on Iran?
The CIA has received secret presidential approval to mount a covert "black" operation to destabilize the Iranian government, current and former officials in the intelligence community tell the Blotter on ABCNews.com.
The sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the subject, say President Bush has signed a "nonlethal presidential finding" that puts into motion a CIA plan that reportedly includes a coordinated campaign of propaganda, disinformation and manipulation of Iran's currency and international financial transactions.
"I can't confirm or deny whether such a program exists or whether the president signed it, but it would be consistent with an overall American approach trying to find ways to put pressure on the regime," said Bruce Riedel, a recently retired CIA senior official who dealt with Iran and other countries in the region.
Commenters writing at The Blotter have responded and they are overwhelmingly furious at Brian Ross for blowing the cover on this. Here's one reaction:
I AM LIVID!
As a mother of a USAF pilot now serving in Iraq, I AM aghast that once again the biased, liberal media would OUT the Americans to their enemies! COVERT means JUST THAT. ABC, I am turning you off for FOX news. Bush is NOT trying to get us into a WAR. He is trying to MANUEVER us OUT of a war, even though IRAN has NOT stopped their nuclear weapons making efforts, as well as Iran's military involvement in IRAQ.
I HATE ABC
First Amendment rights, once again, trump any other rights. Such as: the right to LIFE, for many people, the right and responsibility of a government to do all in its power to protect it's citizens.
Yes, there needs to be a free press in order to have a democracy. But a free press SHOULD have the integrity and moral courage to know what should not be broadcast, rather than being driven by the insatiable lust for ratings.
I was once a devout ABC news fan. Recent storeis, including this despicable bit of reportage, have drastically lessened my opinion of the organization.
This is just over the top!!!!
Marc Shulman at The Moderate Voice notes that this report comes the day before the IAEA is supposed to announce that Iran is advancing quickly in enriching uranium.
Iran is attempting to draw up plans to strike targets in Europe and has reconnoitered European nuclear power stations, a security analyst told a meeting at Britain's parliament.
Claude Moniquet, president of the European Strategic Intelligence and Security Centre, a private think-tank in Brussels, said his organisation also had evidence Tehran has increased the number of its intelligence agents across Europe.
"We have serious signals that something is under preparation in Europe," Moniquet said. "Iranian intelligence is working extremely hard to prepare its people and to prepare actions."
The centre, which he said deals directly with European intelligence agencies, believes Iranian operatives have carried out "reconnaissance of targets in European cities, including nuclear power stations," Moniquet said. He mentioned no other specific targets.
Update II: Captain Ed makes the point that this covert action was meant to avoid military strikes against Iran, but with this leak, assuming it was unwanted, the possiblity of a military strike may have to be put back on top of the list again.
The White House intended on using this plan to keep from having to use a military option to stop the mullahs from getting their hands on a nuclear weapon. In fact, ABC reports that Dick Cheney preferred the military option, but that Bush overruled him in favor of the covert action instead. As I have written repeatedly here, a military strike is a lousy choice given the terrain, battleground, and options for targets in Iran as well as the political situation on the ground.
Thanks to the loose lips at Langley and ABC, that option may have to go back to the top of the list. Covert actions that appear on national television tend to lose the element of surprise, after all, and the Iranians can now take steps to block these actions. Undoubtedly they have been on guard in case Bush decided to use these options, but it certainly helps to have the American media broadcast it around the world.
Prediction: at some point, the nutroots will accuse Cheney of ordering a member of his staff to leak the President's secret covert action to ABC in order to force the military strikes that Bush overruled.